Coleman, Wim. Proteus. Perfection Learning, 2001. ISBN 0789153568. 26 pp. Reviewer: Rebecca Hixson Reading Level: All Rating: Outstanding Genre: Plays; Folklore; Humorous Plays; Subject: Trojan War--Juvenile drama; Mythology, Greek--Juvenile drama; Theme: Knowing the future doesn’t make you happy; laughter is the best medicine. Production Requirements: The stage can be bare except for a single flat or screen, behind which Proteus will make his transformations. Acts: 1 Run Time: 30 minutes Characters: 4 male, 2 female, several extras for the chorus of sea nymphs and the herd of seals. Cast: Adults can perform for children, or children for children. Time Period: Eight or nine years after the Trojan War. At the end of the Trojan War the Greek chieftain and king of Sparta, Menelaus, set sail for home. Like Odysseus, he was blown off course in a storm and wandered for years before he arrived in his home city of Sparta. Along the way, he had an extraordinary encounter with Proteus, the magical, shape-shifting Old Man of the Sea. The play chronicles the story of Menelaus' adventure with Proteus. It is introduced by Thalia, the Muse of comedy. She has come to the island of Proteus because she needs a good laugh, and knows that Proteus is a trickster. Upon finding Menelaus on the shore, she comes up with a plan that will make her laugh again. She gets Menelaus to try to pin Proteus down, because he is a soothsayer, and will tell the truth if he's trapped. A comical situation ensues because Proteus is a shape-shifter and is virtually impossible to hold down. It is only when he changes into an old man that Menelaus catches him. Proteus then tells him that Zeus is punishing him because he hasn't offered a sacrifice in 18 years. Menelaus realizes that Proteus is not a soothsayer, but a laughsayer, because knowing the future isn't what makes you happy. Laughter is the only true thing to lift your spirits. The language is witty and easily understood by audiences of all ages. The characters are diverse in their personalities, allowing the audience to identify with them and laugh at their flaws. A bare stage can be used, with the only addition of a flat or screen, behind which Proteus has to make his transformations. The costumes are needed for his transformations are simple: a tiger mask, a blue sheet, a snake puppet, and a boar mask. Costumes for seals and sea nymphs are needed as well.
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